Maybe you've heard that name, Sarutobi Sasuke [猿飛佐助]. Many believe that he really existed, and many of his deeds told in books were real. Others claim that he is nothing more than a fiction based on another ninja from the It was Meiji, called Kozuki Sasuke.
Even with this dilemma, Sarutobi Sasuke is an important character in Japanese folklore. So much so that in many manga, novels, anime, books, games his name is mentioned or his character is portrayed in some way. So, in this article, we will tell you about the feats of this ninja and unravel a little more of his fascinating history.
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The Origin and End of Sasuke
The name "Sarutobi" means "flying Monkey", and as most of you are aware, many of the Japanese names actually describe the qualities or virtues that someone has. As such, Sarutobi Sasuke was famous for his agility, speed, and acrobatic skills, compared to those of an ape. He could dodge the warrior faster, dodging and jumping, evading even sword blows. Many accounts portray him as an orphan boy who was raised by a group of monkeys.
According to legend, Sasuke was born and raised on the back of a Shinano mountain. [信濃], where Nagano Prefecture is currently located. Sasuke since childhood lived playing in the mountains and forests with the monkeys. One day he met a mysterious man named Koga [甲賀]. Koga taught the young man the secrets of ninjutsu, as well as fighting with swords.
After years of training, Sasuke joined a clan led by a courageous military commander named Sanada Yukimura [真田幸村]. This commander organized the "Sanada-Juyushi [真田十勇士], a group made up of 10 legendary ninjas, and Sasuke was part of it. One of the most famous battles of this group was the summer battle at Osaka Castle in the final phase of the Sengoku period in 1615. Even though the end result was not favorable, Sasuke and his group were an essential element in Sanada's strategy. Yukimura, while spying and bringing valuable information to their master.
One story even tells that, in one of these spy missions in the castle, Sasuke made an exceptional entrance, and managed to hear the plans that his enemies were making. But on his way out, the guards caught him. But due to his skill and evasion tactics, he broke free of the guards and easily jumped over the high castle wall.
Some say that after this escape, Sasuke fell into a bear trap. Seeing himself trapped there and afraid of being caught by the castle guards, the ninja cut his legs to get out of the trap. But, that limited him to use his abilities that made him so famous. In this condition, Sasuke committed suicide and did not let himself be caught. Others say that after the final battle at the castle, Sasuke and his companions fled and their fate became unknown.
Real or fiction?
Many claim that Sasuke is rather a fictional character, created for children's tales published by Tastsukawa-Bunko [立川文庫] between 1911-1923. These tales were very popular among Japanese teenage boys. Such enthusiasm and fame in those days ended up making the name Sasuke a synonym for ninjas.
Even if he is in fact a fictional character, there were people similar to him in the story, as we already mentioned at the beginning of the article. So let's separate truth and fiction a little. There was even a military commander named Sanada, and it's true that he had his own special group of ninjas. And these made enormous conquests in the summer battle at Osaka castle. But the commander's real name was Sanada Nobushige [真田信繁].
Several ninjas in the story resemble Sarutobi Sasuke's tales. In some documents about ninjas and ninjutsu from the Edo period, a ninja named Shimotsuge Kizaru is listed. In Japanese, “Ki” [木] can be translated as tree and "Saru" [猿] means monkey. It is quite likely that the reason he was named "Kizaru" is that he was quite agile like a monkey. According to reports, Shimotsuge Kizaru was able to jump from one tree to another without shaking the leaves from the branches. Kizaru's real name was Kozuki Sasuke [上月佐助].
So there's no way to know with 100% for sure if Sarutobi Sasuke really existed, or if he was just a character created for children's stories, based on a real person. Regardless, the name Sasuke gained great value and importance, both for ninjas and for Japanese culture.
References to sarutobi sasuke
- As already mentioned, the character appeared in Bunko Tachikawa, a famous children's literature between 1911 and 1925;
- a manga called Sasuke Sarutobi, created by Shigeru Sugiura was published in the 1950s;
- in anime Naruto, we have a character named Sasuke Sarutobi, being the father of the Third Hokage;
- Still in Naruto, we can see several references in the characters Asuma Sarutobi, Hiruzen Sarutobi(this one had a unique invocation called Enma the Monkey King, coincidence?), Konohamaru Sarutobi and the most famous Sasuke Uchiha;
- In the manga and anime Ninja Nonsense: The Legend of Shinobu – 2×2 = Shinobuden, all male ninja are known as Sasuke;
- One of the bosses in Nioh is a ninja named Sasuke Sarutobi;
- Other references are found in the films Sanada 10 Braves (2016), Goemon (2009), The Shogun Assassins (1979) among many others;
- We see our character in manga and anime like The Little Ninja and brave 10;